You can’t have metal without “heavy,” so it makes sense that some of extreme rock’s most high impact practitioners have also been somewhat extreme around the waistline.
On the other cheeseburger-free hand, punk archetypes are dominated by the emaciated likes of Iggy Pop and Joey Ramone, while commercial hard rock heroes rarely get beefier than Steven Tyler and David Lee Roth.
Alas, those genres, too, can claim performers that not only bowl over audiences like a wrecking ball, but who are also kind of shaped like a wrecking ball.
Reinforce your floorboards, then, as we’ve ranked the ten heftiest headbangers, plumpest punks, most gargantuan grunge stars, and most heartily rotund hard rockers in order of their overall contribution to making fat guys in rock-and-roll (emphasis on the “roll”) come off as cool as their multitude of stick-thin brethren. Of course, this should all be taken lightly. Wow—that’s ironic!
Van and Gary Lee Conner – Screaming Trees
“Nearly Lost You” – Live on Letterman
Two tons of grunge in swollen sibling form, lookalike brothers Van and Gary Lee Conner played bass and lead guitar, respectively, in Screaming Trees, one of the signature bands of the Seattle sound that gobbled up the entire planet in the early 1990s.
Prettyboy blonde Mark Lanegan fronted the Trees, while Los Hermanos Conner provided a thunderous back rhythm and lightning storm axe attack, resulting in the classic 1991 album Uncle Anesthesia and the 1992 hit from the Singles soundtrack, “Nearly Lost You.”
Paul Baloff – Exodus
“Reality Check TV: Paul Baloff”
While some of the original thrash frontmen who came of age with Exodus singer Paul Baloff have expanded through the years so that their body size presently fits their overwhelming vocals (um, uh, Tom Araya… cough-cough, Chuck Billy), when they started out in the ’80s, they were as lean as they sounded mean. Not so, good time Paulie.
Larger-and-louder-than-life in ever sense, Baloff led Exodus through their 1981 formation to the 1985 album breakthrough with Bonded by Blood. Alas, Paul’s mammoth talent was matched only by his appetite for self-destruction (and everything else) hit such highs so fast that even this group of unapologetic indulgers had to fire the frontman in 1987. What cruel irony, then, for Exodus’s follow-up LP to be titled Pleasures of the Flesh.
Baloff spread out to other bands over the next few years before return to Exodus in 1991. From there, Paul devoured crowds with the band over the course of the next decade until, tragically, he died in 2002 after a stroke. He continues to cast a long, and wide, shadow.
Vinnie Paul – Pantera, Damageplan, Hellyeah
“Vinnie Paul on Drums”
Vinnie Paul Abbott slams his drums like a one-man wrecking crew, loading each strike with the full force of his body weight, thereby loading even the slightest high-hat tickle with the wallop full bass kick.
Vinnie’s tragically deceased brother, eternal guitar wizard Dimebag Darrell Abbott was himself no shrinking violent, of course, either musically or in grandiose corporeal presence.
Together, the Abbot Brothers rocked Pantera to unprecedented heights of heavy and then continued mowing down all comers in their group Damageplan, until Darrell’s life was stupidly and infuriatingly cut short on-stage by a murderer’s bullet.
Even if the Abbots had been built like Joseph and Maurio Duplantier in Gojira, Vinnie and Dimebag would still be the heaviest brother act in metal. Fortunately, for this list, they were also raised on Southern cuisine as well.
Jerry A. and Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts – Poison Idea
“Live in Holland”
Portland, Oregon hardcore marauders Poison Idea slayed audiences with a take-no-prisoners rock ethic and demolished barbecue stands, taco trucks, and fast food joints worldwide with a leave-no-table-scraps eating ethic.
Founded in 1980 and fronted by pork-rocker Jerry A., Poison Idea bulked up to maximum capacity a year later with the addition of guitarist Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts. Musically, the group tore apart ears like a blob from outer space. Lyrically, they offended sensibilities like the notion of portion limits at a Golden Corral buffet. Physically… well, if a promoter hadn’t thought to put their stage close to the floor, the band would naturally get it there by the set’s end.
The essential, elephantine lineup of Poison Idea played together up until Pig Champion’s death in 2006 following the flu and a kidney infection. The group has since replaced him on guitar, but it must take an entire opening act to fill in P.C.’s seat on the tour bus.
Billy Milano – S.O.D.
“Dirty Rock Nation: Billy Milano Interview”
Billy Milano is a hilarious fat Italian guy from the Bronx who can growl and howl on par with any number of creatures he’s likely consumed in meatball form. As such, Milano proved to be a perfect front-beast for Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.), the hardcore punk-thrash metal crossover band formed in 1985 by Anthrax members Scott Ian and Charlie Benante with (ex-Anthrax member) Dan Lilker of Nuclear Assault.
S.O.D.’s debut, Speak English or Die, is a crucial before-and-after line in hard rock history. It represents not only the moment when punks and metalheads put aside their differences and moshed each other to bits in a very violent version of peace, it’s also an uproarious showcase for the outrageous wit, outer-borough NYC ball-buster wisdom, and XXXL army shorts sartorial resplendence of Billy Milano.
Tad Doyle – Tad
“Tad Interview, 1991”
Perhaps you’ve heard that circa the early 1990s, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam spearheaded a music scene that combined punk and metal in Seattle that for, for the rest of that decade, came to define mainstream rock. You may have even heard that the movement was deemed “grunge” and that it also produced a handful of bands (like, say, Mudhoney) that, for a brief, blaring moment also had a flannel-clad hand in the Lollapalooza-era superstar sweepstakes.
Bulging just outside a big-time breakthrough were Tad, Nirvana’s pals and Sub Pop records label-mates, fronted by a their namesake, Tad Doyle, a 300-plus-pound long-haired extra-belt-looped belter who may or may not have once been a butcher (accounts vary).
Barreling alongside their slighter contemporaries, Tad pumped out God’s Balls (1989), 8-Way Santa (1991), and Inhaler (1993) series of essential albums that sound and feel like Doyle looked and sweated on stage: the key words would be “hard” and “heavy” and/or vice versa.
With grunge ebbing at the end of the ’90s, Tad busted up. Doyle presently heads the Seattle sludge-metal act Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Neither he nor his approach to weighty rock has been diminished by an ounce.
Damian Abraham – F—ked Up
“SPIN In My Room: Damian Abraham”
Toronto punk patrol F—ked Up have exceeded the normal limits placed on hardcore bands by incorporating other styles of music, collaborating with artists in disparate genres, producing elaborate concept albums, and being fronted by Damian Abraham—aka Pink Eyes and Father Damian—a chrome-domed, beardy-faced vocalist whose husky gut routinely exceeds the limits of any shirts he tries to wear in concert.
Taking a cue from Austin’s similarly “of size” protest punk Gary Floyd of the Dicks and Sister Double Happiness, Abraham often loads his public performances, both musical and otherwise, with political content. Beginning in 2009, the outspokenly liberal appeared semi-regularly on the after-hours Fox News series Red Eye, taking on host Greg Gutfeld and providing an alternative point of view.
Gutfeld, the Fox News answer to Jon Stewart, only goofed on Abraham upon learning that the punk singer majored in Women’s Studies in college, bypassing more obvious japes at Damian’s weight. Does that count as… progress?
Messiah Marcolin – Mercy, Candlemass
“Bewitched” – Candlemass
Wild-eyed, wire-haired, wide-hipped wailer Bror Jan Alfredo “Messiah” Marcolin initially bewitched Sweden’s metal scene with his original band, Mercy, before forever redefining the extremes of doom in Candlemass, beginning with their their first two classic albums, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in 1986, and Nightfall a year later.
Clad in heft-hiding black cassocks and other occult garb, the roly-poly reality of Messiah Marcolin’s physical being somehow only compounded the effect of Candlemass as one of the deepest, darkest, and scariest cabals in extreme rock. His wavy, finger-in-an-electrical-socket Swedish afro also set a high bar for bizarre coifs that, to date, has only been topped by the also non-demure Buzz Osborne of the Melvins.
“Mountain at Woodstock 1969”
Such plus-sized provocateurs could all take a lesson, though, from proto-metal pioneer Leslie West, Long Island's wondrous whale of a guitar wizard who fronted the already loaded-named Mountain deigned to deem his 1975 solo debut disc, The Great Fatsby.
Always up-front and good-humored about his economy-sized personal dimensions (especially during his many appearances with lifelong Mountain fan Howard Stern), West also deemed himself “the Fattest Fingers in Rock-and-Roll” and joked on That Metal Show about anything and everything, including losing his lower right leg to diabetes.
Most importantly, Leslie West has never stopped rocking. Of course, whether he wants to or not, The Great Fatsby will also always keep rolling.
“Paradise by the Dashboard Light”
Flattening the competition is Marvin Lee Aday, aka Meat Loaf, whose mammoth physicality is surpassed only by an operatic voice that bests a hundred of any given horn-helmeted fat ladies singing at any given moment.
Meat Loaf’s mammoth star power and those unparalleled pipes piloted him through turns singing for Ted Nugent (on the Free-for-All album) and severely testing the tires of a Harley Davidson as badass biker Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
That was all en route, of course, to Meat’s collaborating with songwriter Jim Steinman and producer Todd Rundgren to render forth 1977’s Bat Out of Hell, rock’s most monumental mash-up of Wagnerian bombast, teenage tumult, girl-group dynamics, and excessive overload at every second, the sheer mammoth proportions of which could only be heaved aloft by a figure as mighty as Mr. Loaf himself. And, for sure, even though his entire ’77 backing band could have fit inside his ruffled tuxedo shirt, there is only one of him.
Long may Meat never Loaf.